Sunday, 19 November 2017

Movie Review: JIGSAW (2017)

Jigsaw 2017

I've been a huge fan of the Saw movies since they started, and it's easy to see why Saw has become one of the biggest franchises in modern Horror. The whole idea of the 'games' is so simple yet brilliant, and opens the doors for all manner of ingenuitive traps culminating in wonderfully shocking and savage death scenes. However, what made the first couple of films truly magnificent were the twists in the story. I feel that as the franchise went on, the writers struggled to find new twists that would genuinely surprise the audience, and the compulsory twists became predictable and, in some cases, a bit shit. I was glad that the Saw series ended when it did, before spiralling into the world of 'straight to DVD' low budget cash grabs as so many other franchises have fallen into in the past, tarnishing their legacy (I'm looking at you in particular, Hellraiser!).

So when I heard that the Saw team were going to continue making these movies after a seven year break, and under the name Jigsaw, I was a little sceptical. The trailer looked relatively big budget, and it looked like it could be a cool movie after all, so I went to the cinema to watch it in its full glory.

I'm pleased to report that it was really very good indeed. The formula is still pretty much the same, with a bunch of detectives discovering bodies and trying to work out who's doing the elaborate killings, all entwined with plenty of Jigsaw's games. There are several twists in the plot, in keeping with the original movies, and while I guessed a couple of them, the others caught me off guard. 

I think that the last few years with no Saw movies has given the writers chance to really develop the story in Jigsaw, and everything about it feels refreshed and exciting once more. The actors are fantastic, and the visuals are stunning. Jigsaw doesn't particularly tread any new ground, but it has certainly breathed new life into the franchise, and I'd say it's the best one since Saw II.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Album Review: THE HAUNTED - Strength In Numbers

The Haunted - Strength In Numbers


01. Fill The Darkness With Black
02. Brute Force
03. Spark
04. Preachers Of Death
05. Strength In Numbers
06. Tighten The Noose
07. This Is The End
08. The Fall
09. Means To An End
10. Monuments


This new album from these legendary Swedish Thrash Metallers, features the return of ex-Face Down front-man Marco Aro on lead vocals. That's cool with me, as Marco was their singer when I first got into the band, back when they released their awesome second album, The Haunted Made Me Do It. I saw them live in Nottingham when they toured that record too, so his return to the band was a welcome one for me.

Strength In Numbers is The Haunted at their best. They are still masters of brutal, technical Thrash Metal, as uncompromising as it is meticulous in its savage delivery. They utilise some slow, sinister guitar work to provide contrast to the bludgeoning onslaught of Metal riffs, which in places, reminds me of Slayer's album Seasons In The Abyss.

There's some fine craftsmanship on display here, from the bone crunching Brute Force, to the rhythmic slamming and fury of Spark. Another track that really stood out for me was the 'Pantera-meets-Grunge' This Is The End.

The Haunted don't really do surprises. If you're a fan of their previous records, particularly ones from the Marco era, Strength In Numbers will meet your expectations, and provides just enough character of its own to separate itself from previous releases without straying too far from their signature sound.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Album Review: SALTIMBANKYA - Masquerade: A Circus Drama

Saltimbankya - Masquerade: A Circus Drama

01. Prologue - Masquerade (Feat. Noel Cordoba)
02. Open Your Eyes
03. The Voice
04. Gipsy Queen (Feat. Luis Robisco)
05. Blue Moon (Feat. Marti Doria)
06. Go Away
07. Epilogue - A Spark Inside Us
08. Tu Enemigo

I had the pleasure of meeting Saltimbankya when my band went to Spain in September. They're from Barcelona and have recently released their debut album Masquerade: A Circus Drama. We swapped CDs, and I eagerly looked forward to giving theirs a spin when I got home. 

Musically, they are like a mix of Symphonic Metal, Folk Metal and Traditional Metal, coupled with a strong theatrical image. The album tells a story, and for that reason is best listened to as a complete piece of work. If you are a fan of the Nighwish album Imaginaerum, or the more commercial releases from Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil, then Saltimbankya may well be your new favourite band.

The overall production of the album is very impressive, and sets a great platform for this talented new band to tell their Circus story with societal undertones. The song writing and musical performance are both to a highly professional standard, and something one would expect from a major label artist, making Masquerade: A Circus Drama a real pleasure to listen to.

All of the songs are really good, and flow nicely as clearly intended. One of my favourite tracks is Gipsy Queen, with its stunning vocal performance from lead singer Thanya Santos, entwined with some fantastic Flamenco guitar work from special guest Luis Robisco, giving some real magic to its undeniably infectious chorus.
Another personal favourite is the Spanish language, uplifting finale that is Tu Enemigo. As I said before, the whole album is strong, and I'm sure my favourite tracks will change on every listen.

Considering that the band only formed about a year ago, for them to release an album that's this good in such a short period of time, is quite remarkable. It's also a strong indicator of how hard working and creative they are right now. Saltimbankya are definitely one of my best finds of 2017, and they deserve to reach a much wider audience over the coming months.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Album Review: GWAR - The Blood Of Gods

GWAR - The Blood Of Gods
01. War On Gwar
02. Viking Death Machine
03. El Presidente
04. I'll Be Your Monster
05. Auroch
06. Swarm
07. The Sordid Soliloquy Of Sawborg Destructo
08. Death To Dickie Duncan
09. Crushed By The Cross
10. Fuck This Place
11. Phantom Limb
12. If You Want Blood (You Got It) [AC/DC Cover]

This is Gwar's first album since the death of their original frontman Oderus Urungus (or Dave Brockie to his mates). Now fronted by Blothar (AKA Michael Bishop, who incidentally was the original bassist Beefcake The Mighty), The Blood Of Gods is an extremely significant album for Gwar and their fans. This is the record that they need to win people over and justify the continuation of the band, because let's be honest, if it was a steaming pile of shit, the band would be done for. Fortunately, that's not the case.

Gwar has always been sick, unrepentant fun, and their image, coupled with their stage show, was what attracted fans. They have some really good songs in their repertoire, but plenty of shit ones too. It doesn't matter though, because Gwar is an institution, and their nihilistic crazyness will never fail to entertain. Having said that, their last couple of studio albums were very good, and I think it's important that that isn't overlooked.

The Blood Of Gods is far from perfect, but still manages to 'hit the spot'. It touches on every genre that Gwar has dabbled in in the past, from the Megadeth-esque Thrash of El Presidente, the more Punk vibed Fuck This Place, and the ZZ Top meets Cinderella dirty Classic Rock of I'll Be Your Monster.

The production is a bit 'lo-fi' for my tastes, and I think it makes it sound a bit cheap. However, I know that some people love that kind of raw sound .

The Blood Of Gods won't change the world, but it is entertaining. It's certainly a strong start to this new chapter in Gwar's legacy.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Album Review: INCUBUS - 8

Incubus - 8


01. No Fun
02. Nimble Bastard
03. State Of The Art
04. Glitterbomb
05. Undefeated
06. Loneliest
07. When I Became A Man
08. Familiar Faces
09. Love In A Time Of Surveillance
10. Make No Sound In The Digital Forest
11. Throw Out The Map

This album has been out for a few months now, and I must confess that initially I struggled to get into it. I used to really like Incubus around the time their Make Yourself album came out, so out of a bizarre sense of loyalty, decided to forget this new one for a while and come back to it at a later point. I'm glad I did as I like it a lot more this second time round. Some albums are like that for me. They take a couple of plays before the penny drops, and then I 'get it'. 

8 is a wonderful album for stoners, as most of them are, come to think about it. The video for the first single Nimble Bastard is amazing. Anything with dogs in normally scores points with me, but this one is something a bit special.

Overall 8 is a good collection of songs. The production is a bit more 'lo-fi' than expected, but it does give it a modern feel, and prevents them from falling into the 'dated Nu-Metal' trap. Incubus are still a highly creative entity with a lot to offer, and most importantly, it sounds like they're still having fun making music together.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Album Review: GUN - Favourite Pleasures

Gun - Favourite Pleasures
01. She Knows
02. Here's Where I Am
03. Favourite Pleasures
04. Take Me Down
05. Silent Lovers
06. Black Heart
07. Without You In My Life
08. Tragic Heroes
09. Go To Hell
10. Boy Who Fooled The World
11. (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) (Bonus Track / Beastie Boys cover)
12. 20 Storeys (Bonus Track)
13. Come Undone (Bonus Track)
14. All I Really Need (Bonus Track)

When I was a teenager, Gun was one of my favourite bands. When it comes to melodic British Hard Rock, Scotland's Gun were one of the best. Their first three albums are pretty much flawless, Swagger in particular. I was a little heartbroken when their fourth, released under the name G.U.N, was a misguided, unlistenable piece of shit. They broke up shortly after.

Eventually, the band reformed, and after a few line-up shuffles, bassist Dante Gizzi switched to lead vocals. I wasn't too keen on this at first because while he has a cool voice, it's very different to original vocalist Mark Rankin's, and Mark's voice was such an integral part of the band's sound. Replacing him with a lead vocal that's so different changed the sound of the band dramatically. With Dante on vocals, I've found Gun very 'hit and miss'. There have been some amazing songs such as Butcher Man and Frantic, but plenty that I really didn't warm to. I was about ready to give up on Gun, but I thought I'd give this new album a whirl.

I'm very pleased to say that Favourite Pleasures is easily the best Gun album since Swagger. The title track is a fantastic single with its Hard Rock spliced neatly with some Funk. Take Me Down is another favourite, with its array of infectious hooks.

I wouldn't go as far as to say Favourite Pleasures is in the same league as the first three records, but it's certainly a very good album in its own right. It all sounds so much more 'together' and focussed than the previous two, as well as having better songs, so I can see why Gun are having a resurgence in popularity.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Album Review: BLONDIE - Pollinator

Blondie - Pollinator

01. Doom or Destiny
02. Long Time
03. Already Naked
04. Fun
05. My Monster
06. Best Day Ever
07. Gravity
08. When I Gave Up on You
09. Love Level
10. Too Much
11. Fragments 

Blondie is a legendary band with an array of hit singles that most people will be familiar with, as they've been etched into our lives via popular culture and mainstream saturation. Who doesn't love massive tunes like Atomic, Heart Of Glass, Call Me, and Hanging On The Telephone? It's Rock 'n' Roll gold, and their influence in the worlds of Pop, Punk, Rock and even Disco are undeniable. Of course, it's only right that I give their new record, Pollinator, a listen.

Long Time starts with that classic Blondie beat, that instantly brings Heart Of Glass to mind, before Debbie Harry's iconic voice takes the song in a direction of it's own, spawning a hit single that will no doubt find its way onto future Greatest Hit compilations. Fun also has that classic sound, but leans more towards a Disco vibe, yet still unfolds into a killer single.

The rest of the album is enjoyable, but those two singles are easily the stand out tracks for me, even if they tap a little more into nostalgia than some of the others. I think the problem that they have is that they set the bar so high in the 70's and 80's. By most other band's standards, these new songs would be considered as a huge triumph, but Blondie have done so much better in the past. If you're a fan, Pollinator is definitely worth checking out though.

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